If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile now, you’ll have noticed that I don’t have a huge travel focus in my posts. The Travel category is in fact fairly sparsely populated with travel posts, and the last big travel post I did was a year ago.
What’s the big deal? Many other financially independent bloggers are constantly traveling… So, why don’t we travel more? Is it a money thing? Do we hate traveling? Are we not actually financially independent?
Speculation on topics like this can run rampant if not addressed, so I thought I’d take today to address the not-so-large elephant in the room (it’s more of a mouse really).
It’s Not A Money Thing
First off, I’d like to say that it’s not a money thing. Last year we spend about $2500 on travel, and this included a trip to Texas, camping trips in the summer, and various road trips throughout the year. Almost half of that was airfare.
In 2017 we spent around $5,690 on our epic month long trip to Japan. Around $3,000 of that was on airfare. In 2016 we spent around $3,000 for a family trip to Hawaii.
Compared to what other FI bloggers spend on travel, we barely spent a drop in the bucket. It really isn’t about the money though.
Compared to what we earn in dividends alone, travel spending accounts for less than 10% of our dividend income. Clearly we have plenty of room to spend more… so why don’t we?
Really, it’s all about the kids…
Kids And Travel
If you don’t have kids right now, but plan to have kids someday, let me make this simple — Traveling with young kids is difficult.
Did I say difficult? I meant ABSOLUTELY BRUTAL!
First you have to pack a ton of extra stuff for kids — car seats, strollers, bottles, baby food, baby formula, mountains of diapers, medicines, extra changes of clothes, snacks, toys and games, favorite blankets, and so on. Then once you’ve managed to get all of that into a suitcase, you have to schlep this mountain of stuff through the airport… like some kind of crazy sherpa.
Ultimately you’ll need to get an extra big rental car just to carry it all (rental vans work great FYI).
I can say this without hesitation — It is a giant pain in the ass to travel anywhere because of all this extra stuff. It’s not optional either. The kids really do need it to be comfortable. Car seats and booster seats in particular are required by law in many states and countries.
Some people manage to travel quite decently when they have one child, but once you have two young kids (like we do) the mountain of stuff doesn’t just double — it seems to multiply by a factor of 4!
As ‘the Dad’, carrying around all this stuff typically falls on my shoulders (along with carrying all our other bags). You’ve probably seen that Dad in the airport — The one struggling with 10 large bags, a screaming child, and he’s got that deer in the headlights look. Yes, that was me.
Then you should consider what traveling a crabby child is like. They’re out of their routine, eating weird food, and they don’t sleep well on the plane usually either. It’s a recipe for crabby children with upset stomachs. (I’ve been vomited on in an airplane more times than I care to admit.) There’s also crying, screaming, occasional tantrums, and everything else you might expect from an emotionally under-developed human being.
Honestly, traveling with two children under the age of two is HELL. If you think a vacations with a young family is all sunshine, smiles, and delicious food, you’re kidding yourself. Staying at home instead of traveling, is often a easier and more pleasant experience.
Traveling with teenagers is a completely different story — they can usually carry their own bag, and don’t constantly soil themselves or vomit up their last meal on you. Besides a little complaining and teenage angst, they’re fairly functional human beings.
Now that our kids are getting a little older (just turned 4 and 6 years old), we’re finally getting out of the “baby stage” and travel is getting a little easier. For example — we got rid of our stroller last year (2018). Both kids can now walk quite a long ways as long as we take frequent breaks. That felt like a HUGE milestone.
We also no longer need to pack two sizes of diapers, baby food, a stroller, special blankets, and not nearly as many changes of clothes. The kids can even carry a backpack with their own snacks, water bottle, and toys now!!
(We still have to pack a car seat and a booster seat for the kids though.)
Last year on our big family trip to Texas, the load felt so much lighter! Dare I say it — traveling was actually a somewhat pleasant experience. I think I only got puked-on once that entire trip! (Small victories, right?)
After 4 years of “unpleasant” travel experiences, things are finally starting to look up for the Tako family…
Now that our oldest son (Tako Jr.) has reached school age, he is required by law to attend school. This saves us over $1000 per month in daycare costs, but State law also requires kids in Washington state must attend 180 days of school. Unless the child has a prior excused absence.
Getting an excused absence to travel during the school year is possible, but I’d much rather have Tako Jr. in school doing what he’s supposed to be doing — learning and keeping up with the school curriculum.
The school calendar limits our family travel time to Christmas vacation, spring break, winter break, and summer vacation (July & August).
In the past we’ve traveled whenever it was cheap or convenient, but now we’re mostly constrained by the school calendar. This probably means no more super cheap flights to Hawaii the week after school starts. It’s unfortunate, but it’s also something we’re just going to have to get used to. School is important, and good attendance has a huge correlation with a student’s long-term success.
While it is possible to home-school kids to get more time for travel, we decided this is NOT the best path for us (more on the topic in this post). We’ve decided our kids are going to public school for now…
Up-Coming Summer Trips
With all of that said, we’re still going to be doing plenty of traveling this summer. It’s finally getting easier for the kids to travel. Mrs. Tako also has a ton vacation stored-up (a couple months worth), so that really isn’t a problem either. We’re going to be doing more frequent family trips as a result! 🙂
Our summer 2019 travel plans include the following:
- Summer trip to Texas. Tickets for this trip have been travel-hacked and booked already! We had so much fun last spring, we decided to go back and check out the hot Texas summers this year. It could be a possible move location for us.
- A family camping trip to the San Juan islands. Every year we try to go on a family camping trip. The kids absolutely love camping and have been begging me to go for months. The San Juan islands are really nice in the summer and great for camping. I’d like to do 3-4 days in August.
- Road trip to the Grandparent’s house (3-4 days). We do several of these a year, and it makes for a nice long-weekend trip.
- Washington / Oregon coast trip. When forest fire season starts in Washington, it’s always nice to head to the coast to cool off and get some fresh air. Maybe we’ll drive down highway 101 all the way down to Oregon, enjoying the coastal sites along the way.
If we managed to do all of these trips in 2019, that should fill-up our entire summer vacation.
Travel Bucket List
A travel schedule like the one I discussed above is going to be pretty typical in the years to come — One big trip in the summer, along with lots of smaller trips throughout the year. It’s a cadence that seems to work for us.
But what about the locations? Where are we going to travel? Well, we keep a bucket-list of all the places we want to go:
Thailand — We’ve never been to Thailand and we’d love to go. Hopefully soon. Great food, warm weather and cheap prices (The holy trinity of good travel destinations) make Thailand the very top of our bucket list. This would probably be one of our longer one-month trips.
Arizona — AZ frequently comes up in lists of places that are great for retirement, but other than a few business trips I’ve never really visited the state. Low taxes, affordable housing, and plenty of sunshine are always sighted as big positives for AZ. Towns like Flagstaff and Tuscon get high praise all the time for being excellent places to live and raise a family. Is it true? I’d like to spend at least a week checking out Arizona.
New Zealand — A few years back we spent the entire month of December in Australia. It was a great trip, but we never managed to get over to New Zealand. I’d like to rectify this little issue with a medium length trip to New Zealand.
Hokkaido — We’ve been to Japan at least a dozen times in the past and we’ve visited almost every major island, except Hokkaido. This is something I’d like to rectify with a longer summer visit. Apparently Hokkaido is bitter cold in the winter, but quite pleasant in the summer. This fits quite nicely with the school schedule too!
Italy / Spain — I’ve never been to the Mediterranean parts of Europe, but everyone says Italy and Spain are just the best. Great food, plenty of sunshine, tons of cool buildings to look at, and of course great museums. This would be a great trip and Mrs. Tako is just itching to go already!
That it for today! Got any kid travel horror stories? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
[Image Credit: Flickr]